SEATTLE — Aaron Boone isn’t quite ready to officially start making plans for how he’ll use Luis Severino down the stretch.
But that doesn’t mean the manager isn’t thinking about it.
“I’m looking forward to having him, no question about it,” Boone said before the Yankees tried to take their second straight from the Mariners in this three-game series. “Because I know what he could mean to us.”
Severino, who hasn’t thrown a pitch in the big leagues this season, is on the verge of taking an important step toward doing so.
The righthander threw a third simulated game Tuesday at the club’s minor league complex and told The Associated Press afterward he’s ready to begin a rehab assignment, which would officially start the 25-year-old’s clock for a return to the Yankees at a to-be-determined point in September. Boone said, as long as Severino feels good upon showing up at the complex Wednesday he’ll start that assignment with Double-A Trenton on Sunday.
“I know for a month or so he’s been doing really well with all of his steps,” Boone said. “Everything’s checked out really well and we feel like he’s throwing the ball really well.”
Still, Boone won’t get ahead of himself. Not after watching Severino, 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 32 starts last season, start the year on the injured list with right rotator cuff inflammation, then suffer a lengthy setback during that rehab because of a lat strain.
“There’s not necessarily a rush to get him here now,” Boone said. “I just want him to be in as good a place as possible when we’re ready to take him.”
Severino will throw about two innings (or 35 pitches) Sunday and will extend that total in the bullpen, Boone said. After that, only so many games will be left in the minor-league season so the Yankees could bring up Severino to the big leagues have his arm buildup continue there. That could manifest itself in a variety of ways, including building Severino up the way he, or any starting pitcher, gets built up in spring training. For example, having him go, say, three innings in his first start, build him to four or five in his next one and so on. Or, as Boone and GM Brian Cashman have discussed, he could be built up coming out of the bullpen.
“We’ll see,” Boone said. “That’s what this month [will be]. It will kind of declare itself for us so we can make the best decisions for him and us.”
Dellin Betances (lat strain) and lefthander Jordan Montgomery (Tommy John surgery) are also rehabbing in Tampa with Severino. Betances, slightly behind Severino in his rehab but, like the starter, expected by the Yankees to make a September return, will face hitters Wednesday for the second time. He faced hitters for the first time in his rehab last Saturday. Montgomery, a longer shot to be a factor in September though it’s not impossible, started a rehab assignment Sunday for Class-A Tampa and is supposed to make another rehab start later in the week.
Severino, however, is the closest of the three to making a return to New York and, given the inconsistency of the Yankees’ rotation, potentially a significant addition.
“I picture him very much being a part of things moving forward,” Boone said. “But I also tread carefully. We’ve done well over the last month with him. Absolutely feel like he’s going to be a part of things, but the next step is kind of the focus right now.”